It’s Not Her Billionaire Tax, AOC’s Campaign Says

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)

U.S. Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s team disputed her role in a campaign to pass a Billionaires Tax in New York State on Thursday after a New York Times article portrayed her as the leader of the effort. 

The article overemphasized the congresswoman’s role in the campaign and made it seem as though she is spearheading the state level effort which was not the case, a spokesperson from Ocasio-Cortez for Congress Campaign said. Ocasio-Cortez (D-Parts of Queens and the Bronx) supports the legislation and agreed to be featured in a video about it, but that’s the end of her efforts.

“She’s not spearheading the campaign. She’s supporting Make the Road New York and Senator Ramos,” the spokesperson said.  “Beyond the video there’s no plan as of now.”

The video, which was produced by Make the Road New York and is just over four minutes long, is about the Billionaire’s Tax and Worker Bailout Fund (S.8277/A.10414) and is driven mainly by a sit down interview with Ocasio-Cortez coupled with footage from recent protests outside of New York’s City Hall, and interviews with workers who would benefit from the bill. It also features the lead sponsors of the bill Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) and Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa (D-Manhattan), as well as Public Advocate Jumaane Williams but to a much lesser extent.

But, Ocasio-Cortez’s interview drives the video’s narrative. 

“That’s all up to how Make the Road edited the video,” the spokesperson said about Ocasio-Cortez’s prominence in the video. 

If passed, the Billionaire’s Tax and Worker Bailout Fund (S.8277/A.10414) would raise an expected $5.5 billion in tax revenue from New York’s billionaires which would be put towards aid for workers who were excluded from the stimulus package and other government aid during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a press release from Make the Road New York, an advocacy organization that supports the bill. 

“For so long, we’ve been bailing out corporations. COVID has shown us that the most vulnerable people, they too, deserve to be bailed out,” said Assemblymember De La Rosa. 

More than one million New Yorkers didn’t receive federal aid during the pandemic because they are undocumented, recently incarcerated, or work gig economy jobs as day laborers or domestic cleaners, the release said. While they struggled during the pandemic, New York’s 118 billionaires grew their wealth by an estimated $45 billion to $566 billion.

The lawmakers are calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to take action and fill the gap caused by the federal government. 

“There’s no reason why working families in New York state, one of the richest states in this country should be in so much need of basic necessities when we have the largest concentration of billionaires in the entire world,” said Sen. Ramos.

In an effort to raise awareness about the bill, Make the Road New York organized a 24 hour fast which began on Thursday, as well as a sleep out onThursday night outside of billionaire Jeff Bezos 5th Avenue penthouse. Lawmakers, workers and organizers from around the city joined the fast to show their support. 

“I am proud to fast in solidarity with excluded workers as we keep up the pressure on us as state legislators and Governor Cuomo to do right by these members of our community,” said State Sen. Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan). “Now that we see the devastation of coronavirus and its disproportionate impact on black and brown neighborhoods like the ones I represent, it’s even more urgent that we raise revenues from those who have only become richer during the pandemic,” 

Ocasio-Cortez’s spokesperson said that they were happy to help elevate the campaign through Ocasio-Cortez’s public support of the legislation and through her participation in the video. 

“They want somebody who’s an ally, who’s going to support them and that’s what we are,” the spokesperson said. 

Her support as a Progressive celebrity, however, received pushback from critics of the legislation. Critics, such as Gov. Cuomo, think a Billionaire’s Tax won’t work and will instead drive billionaires away from New York to other states that have tax laws more in their favor. They think the focus should be on making changes at a federal level instead. 

“It’s interesting when you have people elected to Congress pushing for state action when they can’t get action in Congress,” said Cuomo’s budget director Robert Mujica to the New York Times. “It’s absolutely necessary for the federal government to step up and provide the support we need.” 

Ocasio-Cortez’s spokesperson acknowledged that the federal government has a role to play and said that Ocasio-Cortez supports progressive taxation, which would impose a lower tax rate on low income workers that would progressively increase as income increases. But, progressive taxation is unlikely to happen under the Trump Administration, the spokesperson said, and immigrant families need immediate help –– help which Gov. Cuomo can provide. 

“Billionaires have long threatened to move out of the state due to higher taxes, but the reality is that the highest concentration of billionaires in the country remain in California and New York,” the spokesperson said.